The Wind

The wind used to be my enemy. Or so my perception taught me. It came with its unforgiving claws and snatched away the very ground I stood on, leaving me falling, helpless with only the air it left behind to grasp onto.

It snatched my sanity.

It wasn’t until I noticed one night how the wind danced with the stars, weaving its wanton fingers with the winking lights, that I began to understand that perhaps I hadn’t seen rightly. After all, with an invisible thing like the wind, how can one see it except in his or her imagination?

As a child, it seemed cruel, like a devil intent on stealing my innocence. I remember the day clearly. It was my eighth summer, and I’d been given a brand new cherry red kite for flying on blustery days. When I peeked outside one morning, my heart thrilled at the way the trees bowed to one side as if approached by unseen royalty, by the way the leaves fluttered like twittering songbirds and the chimes Mama had hung around the terrace sang.

It was the perfect day for flying my kite.

Without so much as eating a bite of boiled egg or letting Mama work my hair into braids, I grabbed the treasured gift and ran outside, laughing at the way the wind nearly knocked me to the ground. I had to catch my breath for its intensity, but I’d never felt more alive, there in the presence of a force so strong and stunning. Clutching the kite handle in one hand, I lifted my other, letting the wind push through the cracks between my fingers, relishing the feel of something beyond my control. I trusted the wind. Because it had always been, before the origins of everything. Wind simply was, and it seemed to hold some secret knowledge which, as a small girl living in one of the smallest villages in the kingdom, I took comfort in.

I lowered my hand and let the wind toss my dark hair about my face, tie it into knots that I’d probably regret later when Mama tried to pull a comb through it. But right now, I didn’t care. It was time to fly the kite.

Unraveling the string, I released it, allowing the wind to catch the bright redness in its grasp. I watched the kite and held on tight to the handle, pulling back against the tension. The kite dipped one way, and then the other, dancing to a melody that maybe only I could hear. I reveled in the joy of putting my gift to use. And I wished that I could fly, too. Until the wind picked up, becoming a gale and adopting a fierceness that sent a shaft of fear through my chest. A gash tore open in the middle of the kite, as if pierced with a spear, and I gasped. I could hear someone calling my name somewhere behind me, but the merciless gusts quickly drowned the sound, the urgency.

The wind ripped the red flyer from my white-knuckled grip, and I was powerless to fight it, or to go after it. I watched it, a red spot that suddenly reminded me of blood, until it vanished in between the clouds. And then the sky’s wound became my own, sitting heavy on my heart until I couldn’t breathe. Arms were flung around me from behind. Strong arms, maybe my father’s, and I was pulled inside, where soon the wildness settled into composure. But I still felt the tingling of the wind, its breath taunting my puckered skin. I turned my face into Papa, trying to smother its feel in his embrace.

“It’s gone,” I moaned. “I lost your gift.”

My groans became sobs and my sniffles turned into tears, trailing my face and smearing all over Papa’s tunic.

“It’s all right, Ayla. It’s all right.” His hushed reassurances didn’t steal the tremors running through my little body. And they didn’t amend my new belief.

The wind didn’t care about me. In fact, I could bet our underprivileged lives that it was a menace intent on depriving me of any bit of joy, light, or stability that I could ever find. Why would it rend such a precious gift from my very hands, when we had so little? And after I’d offered it my trust?

The wind was a deceiver, taking delight in bludgeoning dreams.

I pulled myself back from Papa’s arms, and, not willing to part with my harsh thoughts, stiffened, letting anger turn my heart into rock and sift its whispers through my veins. I swiped a hand roughly over my cheek to dry my tears, then lifted my chin.

“It’s ok,” I said quietly. “It’s just a kite.”

Papa stroked my tangled hair, but I turned away and headed for my cot, where I sat the rest of the day, pondering. What could I trust now?

The fury that took root that day bore me through the years, steeling me in defense. I held my own against the wind instead of letting it have its way with its satisfied grins. But I learned, in my eighteenth autumn, that the wind was not something that could be controlled. Resisted, yes. But it was an element that possessed no equal match, an opponent that proved victorious every time. I had many bruises to confirm this truth, but I hid them, calling them my secret battle scars. They made me stronger. They fueled the rage. Until that autumn, when at last my resolve was foiled, and the wind left me with only two choices: die, or surrender.

Both options felt equally unwelcome.

Since my eighth summer, the wind had eradicated our crops, had torn open our roof, and had taken Papa from us during a relentless storm. He perished trying to save our last goat. Which also died. Mama and I were left destitute, forced to sell off what little we owned or beg in the town square in order to feed ourselves.

Then one day I walked outside. The wind was there in all its vehemence, mocking my lament of our dead field and the memories buried in the same dust that brushed over my bare feet. I screamed at it as it rushed into my ears, seeming to not care about our predicament, our demise, but twisting its relentless fingers into my head and squeezing my brain until I thought it might burst. I ran back inside, yelling from the back of my throat and pressing both hands to my ears, overcome.

I lay in defeat on the cold, splintered floor while Mama continued to waste away in her bed, starving because she always insisted I eat the last bits of food. I laid there until nightfall, when the ache that had bloomed in my head and chest at last deflated, settled into something I could hardly name. A deepness penetrated my soul, until my lungs caved from the pressure and tears sprung to my eyes.

What was this?

The pain, the anger inside collided with a new presence. A calm, safe, wild presence that made my heart concave, made my nerves tremble for more. And then a voice rushed through my head.

Go outside.

Night had fallen, but despite the dark, I pushed myself up from the floor, desperate and hungry, and walked outside. I looked up into a sky so speckled with lights that its beauty dropped me to my knees. The wind came, then.

It was gentler this time, breezy and strangely warm, blowing all around, pressing up against me and sweeping over my parted lips. The sensation challenged the rage I cradled inside, as if the two were even now dueling over my fate. The wind lifted, throbbing against my body until it rose over my head, playing with untamed tendrils of my hair. It rose to join the stars, though I couldn’t see it. I just knew. I knew where it was, I could see it dancing, daring, inviting.

And it saw me.

Not my anger at it, but me. It was the moment I knew that my fury would kill me if I didn’t let go, but the prospect of surrendering to the wind, with its unknown intentions, matched my fear of the former.

Once more, much as earlier, the wind rushed into my ears. But this time, its warmth tingled down into my throat and chest, until an offer sat heavy upon my heart.

And that was the moment my anger collapsed before the love that ravaged my apprehensions.

The wind is invisible, as it has always been. I have much to learn, but one thing I now see is that the wind is a gift, because it reminds me I don’t have to be in control. In the past, I only thought I knew what I was seeing. But circumstances don’t always speak the deepest truths, while surrender always, always marks the path to freedom.

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